Path Press Publications published two volumes of Collected Writings of Ñānavīra Thera: the first one is revised edition of one of the Buddhist classics, Clearing the Path, and in the second are early writings – which had never been published before – collected into a book Seeking the Path. Both books are quite voluminous, each containing over 600 pages and covered by hard black cover with nicely designed jacket. The books are prepared and printed professionally in Netherlands, and we can guarantee its perfection in texts and layout.
Ven. Ñānavīra Thera’s writings fall into two periods: from 1950 until 1960 (which are included in Seeking the Path), and from 1960 until 1965 (included in Clearing the Path). The early texts show a man who, in his own thinking and discussion with others, earnestly searches a way to approach the essence of the Buddha’s Teaching by repeated trial-and-error. This search has finally yielded its fruit when, though suffering from amoebiasis (or colitis, i.e. small perforations to the colon), Ñānavīra Thera apparently attained sotāpatti, or Stream-entry, on 26.vi.1959. The one who has ‘entered the stream’ has ipso facto abandoned personality-view (sakkaya-ditthi), which is the self-view implicit in the experience of an ordinary worldling not free from ignorance, and understood the essential meaning of the Buddha’s teaching on the Four Noble Truths. Ñānavīra Thera’s writings after 1960 (Clearing the Path) express this very kind of certainty: no more wandering in the dark, no more doubt or speculative guessing.
Clearing the Path
Clearing the Path contains the text of Ñānavīra’s revised Notes on Dhamma (1960-1965) together with 161 letters of varying lengths written by Ñānavīra to twelve correspondents, which serve (as the author himself stated) as a commentary on the Notes. The texts are scrupulously edited, extensively annotated and cross-referenced by means of a comprehensive index.
isbn: 987 94 6090 004 4
Notes on Dhamma has been variously described as ‘arrogant, scathing, and condescending’, as ‘a fantastic system’, and as ‘the best and most important book on Buddhism ever written by a Westerner’. Ñānavīra Thera himself remarked of the book that ‘it is vain to hope that it is going to win general approval … but I do allow myself to hope that a few individuals … will have private transformations of their way of thinking as a result of reading [the Notes]’.
And indeed, the influence of Notes on Dhamma on Buddhist thinkers continues to increase more than a quarter of a century after its publication. Inasmuch as the first edition, long out of print, consisted of only 250 copies, how is it that this book has aroused such extraordinary interest and controversy? The answer, it seems, is to be discovered not only in the specific content of the Notes but in their general attitude, their view and direction. In describing that attitude their author wrote of the Notes that they ‘attempt to provide an intellectual basis for the understanding of the Suttas (the Buddhist texts) without abandoning saddha (faith)’; that they ‘have been written with the purpose of clearing away a mass of dead matter which is choking the Suttas’; and that, above all, ‘the Notes are designed to be an invitation to the reader to come and share the author’s point of view’.
That point of view—achieved by Ñānavīra through dedicated self-investigation using the Buddha’s Teaching as a guide—is described unflinchingly in the Notes, which assume that ‘the reader’s sole interest in the Pali Suttas is a concern for his own welfare’. However, the Notes, with their admitted intellectual and conceptual difficulties, are not the only way to discuss right view or to offer right view guidance. The letters which are collected here are not only ‘something of a commentary on the Notes’; they are, independently, a lucid discussion of how an individual
concerned fundamentally with self-disclosure deals with the dilemma of finding himself in an intolerable situation, where the least undesirable alternative is suicide.
With openness, calmness, grace, and considerable wit, the Ven. Ñānavīra discusses with his correspondents the illnesses that plague him and what he can and cannot do about them, and about his own existence. His life as a Buddhist monk in a remote jungle abode in not incidental to the philosophy he expounds: the two are different aspects of the same thing, namely a vision that penetrates into the human situation both as universal and particular, and recognizes that it is this situation which is the business of each of us to resolve for ourselves. In presenting this view the Ven. Ñānavīra offers a contemporary exposition of the Teaching of the Buddha. In living this view he evokes a dramatic situation wherein an individual resolutely faces those questions which every lucid person must eventually face.
(You can order Notes on Dhamma also as an independent copy. More more information see here)
Seeking the Path Early Writings
(1954-1960) & Marginalia
Seeking the Path consists of Ñānavīra’s extensive correspondence with Ñaṇamoli Thera from 1954-1959. These letters shed considerable light on the relations between the two men and provide a wealth of material on the formation of Ñānavīra’s thought prior to his ‘stream entry’. The remainder of the volume includes two early essays (Nibbana and Anatta and Sketch for a Proof of Rebirth) as well as notes from a Commonplace Book and Marginalia from books owned by Ñānavīra.
isbn: 987 94 6090 003 7
Before use is made of Seeking the Path – Early Writings of Ñānavīra Thera (1954-1960), the reader should be familiar with Clearing the Path – Writings of Ñānavīra Thera (1960-1965), to which the present volume serves as a supplement.
The main portion of the Early Writings consists of letters written to the late Ñanamoli Thera, where the two English monks explored many modes of Western thought (including quantum mechanics). This correspondence lasted until 1960, the year of Ñanamoli Thera’s death. Gradually they discovered that the Western thinkers most relevant to their interests were those from the closely allied schools of phenomenology and existentialism, to whom they found themselves indebted for clearing away a lot of mistaken notions with which they had burdened themselves. These letters make clear the nature of that debt; they also make clear the limitations which Ñānavīra Thera recognized in those thinkers. He insists upon the fact that while for certain individuals their value may be great, eventually one must go beyond them if one is to arrive at the essence of the Buddha’s Teaching. Existentialism, then, is in his view an approach to the Buddha’s Teaching and not a substitute for it.
In the first part of the book (A), along with the letters, which were preserved by the recipient, were found draft copies of some of the replies which were sent to Ñānavīra Thera. A few letters written to Ñānavīra Thera’s chief supporters, Mr. and Mrs. Perera, and to his family are also included. In the second part of the book (B) are two published essays: ‘Nibbana and Anatta’ and ‘Sketch for a Proof of Rebirth’ in abbreviated form. In the end there are also the contents of the author’s Commonplace Book, Marginalia and a collection of various papers discovered after their author’s death (notes, translations, etc).
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